My blog is called “Story Unscripted” with the tag line “This Life Is Not What I Thought It Would Be.” Why? The expectations I set for my life have rarely come true the way I envisioned them. Don’t get me wrong, I would not change a thing in my life. I am the person I am today because of my life experiences. But, I have finally figured out why I failed at my expectations. Goals are specific and time oriented. My expectations have been about feeling and future state – the what was more important than the how.
Expectations are goals. They need not only a what, but also an appropriate how and an equally appropriate and reasonable why. I’ve fumbled through many moments learning this lesson.
Fumble # 1 Knowing WHAT but not HOW. My daughter, Lindsay, is currently a junior in high school. Going through the college review process with her has reminded me of my expectations at 16. Lindsay’s expectations are tangible, focused and specific – major in International Business at the University of South Carolina, graduate and get a job with Disney. At 16, my expectation was that I was going to work and live in Manhattan – a corner office and co-op overlooking Gramercy Park. That’s it, that was the expectation. How to get there and what I was going to do for a living were virtually irrelevant. Needless to say, I failed at this expectation. I fumbled through the college selection process eventually choosing a great school for the wrong reasons. My dad helped me get my first job after graduation, in Manhattan no less. It was a great job but my next expectation had starting taking a hold of me…
I wanted to get married, buy a house and have a life filled with friends and fun.
FUMBLE #2 Knowing WHAT and HOW but not WHY. By 22, my expectation of the corner office with the great apartment started to fade away for a new expectation….suburban living with friends as family. I had convinced myself that if I stayed with my 16 year old dream, I would die alone. (Have I mentioned my flair for being overly dramatic???) I had a new budding relationship with a man that would become Lindsay’s father. My new expectation was born – the suburban life surrounded by friends and fun. We were married in what could only be described as the best party EVER. We bought a house in the suburbs of Philadelphia and spent weekends with friends skiing in the winter, kayaking in the summer. We had fun, we had friends. As we approached our 30s though, my expectations started to change….
I wanted a baby. I had a what and a how, but I didn’t know why. The why would become the plague of this expectation.
Fumble # 3 Knowing WHAT, HOW and WHY but still not getting it right. By my late 20s, I had fumbled through different jobs. There was little to any stability, but the biological clock that I never thought I had started ticking like a time bomb. This is where my first marriage started to get shaky. After a separation in the spring and summer of 2001, Lindsay’s father and I got back together because I wanted a baby. It was simple, without a father I could not make my expectation a reality. I was edging close to 30 and could not imagine starting an entirely new relationship on the premise of my new expectation. The how and what worked, but the why caused the ultimate failure. The why needed a stronger foundation.
Fumble # 4 You cannot predict what you don’t know. Once Lindsay’s father and I divorced, I began dating my current husband. He has three children, and I convinced myself of the next expectation – we were going to be the Brady Bunch. Without diving too much into this failure of expectation (mainly because I am simply not ready yet), I learned that the what, how and why were all there. My Brady Bunch life was going to be achieved through mutual respect and communication because I loved this man and his kids. But, unknown variables in an equation will derail any analysis and best laid plan. The future is hard to predict, especially if you do not have or are blind to all of the information. You don’t know what you don’t know, and sometimes that’s OK.
Fumbles can ultimately become a Touchdown. My current husband and I have a great life. We are true partners that enjoy each other’s company, challenge each other to be better versions of ourselves and have fun in our own way. We support each other, not how we always WANT to be supported but how we each NEED to be supported. He is my best friend and my rock. My Brady Bunch expectation dissolved into a twist on all of my previous expectations. There are no endless streams of friends and parties, but there is a stability and an inner calm that I never knew was possible. All of my expectations have been achieved. They look very different, but they are there – financial stability, friendship and fun. I fumbled my way there, but I have gotten to my goal.
Expectations are goals. Goals are specific and timely but they don’t have to always be what you anticipated. I have learned through trial and error that you can be specific and timely, but your expectation may not be met exactly as you planned. The knowledge you gain along the way can often be better than you originally expected. Seek your goals, but don’t be afraid to fumble through them. Your failures will teach you more than your successes ever will.